First They Killed My Father: a daughter of Cambodia Remembers
by Loung Ung
Nikki’s Rating: 10 out of 10
Summary: Personal account of Loung Ung’s experience in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime in which two million people were systematically killed between 1975 and 1979 through execution, forced labor, starvation, and disease. While Loung Ung did survive the genocide, many of her family members did not. This is their story but also the story for millions of other Cambodians.
8 Fascinating Things about Loung Ung’s First They Killed My Father
(May Contain Spoilers)
Not quite sure if I’m an uneducated peasant but I do not remember ever learning, let alone even hearing about, the genocide that occurred in Cambodia. So Ung’s novel was very educational for me because I knew absolutely nothing on the subject.
While genocide is terrible, horrific, depressing, maddening, and tragic I do think it is worthwhile to learn about. Humans are capable of doing so much good and yet, we can also be absolutely evil, especially to each other. So yes, focus on the good but we also need to learn about the bad in order to try to prevent it from happening again.
3. First Person
I really appreciate that this novel was written by Ung, therefore a first-person account of what happened. This allows the story to be so much more intimate and real and ultimately more powerful its delivery.
4. Child’s Perspective
Ung wrote the book from the perspective of her childhood self. I love this for many reasons. First, Loung was a child during the time and therefore it makes sense that she would use her childhood self to tell the story, as she experienced it that way. But most importantly, it forces the reality to the reader that a CHILD experienced this. There is no way for the reader to distance themselves from this reality and makes the book that much more powerful and disturbing. No child should ever go through such tragedy.
5. The Horror
While very difficult to read, I give kudos to Loung for not pulling her punches. There were several opportunities for her to gloss or skim over details but she didn’t. She describes, with no apology, what she witnessed being done to her family and other Cambodians.
I enjoyed that Loung included pictures of her family members both before and after the events in the book. This allowed the reader to be reminded once again that this isn’t just a “story,” this happened to real people, not characters.
I appreciate that Loung took the time to explain some Cambodian culture norms and traditions when appropriate.
Loung Ung’s book First They Killed My Father is so utterly powerful. This book brought me to tears on so many occasions and I know I could never truly fathom the horrors that Ung’s family and other Cambodians experienced during this time. The courage of Loung and the rest of her family is phenomenal and so inspiring. I’m hoping to read Loung Ung’s other novel, Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind sometime in the near future.